By Sabina Mollot
By now, most theater buffs in New York City are familiar with “The New York International Fringe Festival,” the mega-festival of plays put on by over 200 companies in 16 days each summer for the past 18 years. However, what’s less known is that there’s also “Fringe Jr.,” a selection of plays in the festival that are geared towards kids. Each show is around an hour and put on by local as well as overseas companies.
The venue this year for Fringe Jr., which kicked off August 8 and will run through August 24, is the 14th Street Y. There are four plays to choose from, each one suitable for families with kids ages 5-12, and tickets are $18 for adults, $13 for kids.
This is the second time Fringe is showing children’s plays exclusively at the Y’s LABA theater.
Previously, Fringe Jr. plays had been shown at more than one venue each year.
“The 14th Street Y has been a very good friend to us,” said Ben Cohen, an associate producer for Fringe’s community and social marketing. The venue, he said, was ideal due to the fact there are already other activities for kids going on, making it convenient for parents who want to introduce their kids to theater.
“All of us at Fringe definitely feel that theater is so important for kids,” Cohen said. “I know it had an impact on me growing up.”
This year, there were over 1,000 applications for Fringe Festival plays, although the Fringe Jr. plays have a separate application process. But like with the other plays, Fringe looks for stories that are “current, present and topical.”
For Fringe Jr., the shows playing at LABA, located at 344 East 14th Street, are as follows:
“Alienne: The Musical Adventures of My Little Martian” by Alienne Productions LLC, a musical musical is a feisty Martian teenager who longs to be an Earthling.
“And Then Came Tango” by Purple Crayon Players, is inspired by the true story of Roy and Silo, male Chinstrap Penguins at the Central Park Zoo who formed a pair bond and caused a public outcry when they raised and hatched a chick named Tango.
“My Monster Friend” by Italian company ExtraTeatro is a musical in which lonely Doctor Science-stein creates a friend in his lab with a brain he ordered online. Thanks to it being an Italian brain, the monster makes pasta.
Another musical from ExtraTeatro is “Vagabond$,” in which an American and Italian vagabond form a crazy musical duo.
On ExtraTeatro, Cohen said the company was chosen to be part of the festival because of the producers/performers’ passion for the material and like many other Fringe participants, they were international.
“They really wanted to bring their stories to New York, said Cohen. “It was a good fit.”
Ashley Thaxton, an assistant with the theater program, which is officially called LABA and Theater at the 14th Street Y, said the Fringe shows were well-attended last year.
Additionally, while LABA normally has a more local audience, the festival succeeded in bringing people in from other parts of the city. “It’s expanded our realm and our reach,” she said.
The LABA theater is a convertible blackbox that can seat 99-120 people depending on the needs of the show, and it’s also hosting eight other Fringe shows for adults.
The LABA program, which stands for Laboratory for New Jewish Culture, was launched in 2009 (initially under the name LABAALMA), and has been putting on its own plays and art exhibits as well as renting out its space to other theater companies ever since.
For more Fringe Jr. show details, see Town & Village’s Around & About section under the Family/Children column.